We are living in a pivotal chapter of our nation’s story. A tumultuous time in biblical history holds great perspective for us as we navigate significant changes in America today. The story of God’s people in the Old Testament, like the experiences of people throughout history, is riddled with conflict, challenges, and change.
One of the most dramatic seasons of change for Judah was undoubtedly the Babyonian invasion, and resulting exile, that occurred beginning in 607 B.C. The first chapter of the book of Daniel recounts the initial invasion: "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia." We can only imagine the anguish and distress these couple of sentences represented for the people of God. It is difficult for us as believers today to understand all that the temple meant to God’s people then.
Verse two of chapter one says: “And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God.” The dramatic devastation and change in the lives of His people was not a surprise to God. In fact, the Scripture says that it was the Lord who gave Nebuchadezzar success. Twenty years after this initial invasion, Nebuchadnezzar succeeded in capturing Jerusalem and destroying the temple.
The meaning and traditions tied to the temple, articles from the temple, and the city of Jerusalem are monumental, as ongoing conflicts yet today testify. Nonetheless, God allowed an ungodly leader’s success in capturing, destroying and carrying off key elements of worship and religion in Judah. Why? What can we learn from Judah’s history as we navigate our own season of transition?
America is in significant cultural upheaval. Perspectives are changing. Values that were once held dear are being discarded. Established institutions and methods are being questioned and often rejected. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, the church is being forced to grapple with significant questions. In many cases, it can feel like the temple has been invaded, that the articles of the temple are being carried off into a foreign land by strangers who do not appreciate what they represent. The battering rams are pounding on the gates, and every faith-based institution--from missions agencies, to churches, schools, non-profit organizations, seminaries, publishing houses, and advocacy groups--is facing an identity crisis. I imagine some of the emotions felt by Christian leaders today reflect those of Judah’s leaders when the Babylonian soldiers entered Jerusalem.
Here is what encourages me: God was not shocked by Nebuchadezzar’s actions, and God is definitely not surprised by the changes we are facing today! In fact, Scripture points to the fact that many who went into exile prospered where God had placed them (Jeremiah 29). Of course, it was not what they wanted, but it was what they needed. Decades later, when God opened the door for some of them to return to Judah and rebuild Jerusalem, there was a renewed sense of purpose, focus, and dedication to the Lord.
The book of Daniel continues with the story of Daniel and his three faithful friends. Carried from Judah to Babylon, and forced into service in the king’s palace, these young men represented a transitional generation. They developed as leaders in the midst of upheaval for their people and led in a place and culture foreign to the mentors and leaders of their youth. In this regard, I believe they resemble young leaders today. God is raising up a remnant of young, godly leaders who will succeed as Daniel and his friends did in leading faithfully in the midst of adverse or complex situations. They are a Daniel Generation. Theirs is not an easy path; it will require sacrifice, wisdom, surrender and faith. In some ways, young people today are poorly equipped for the challenges they will face. This is where inter-generational understanding, mentoring, collaboration and leadership are critical. Leaders of all ages must engage to seek timely wisdom, and share perspectives, skills, and truths that will be needed in the days ahead.
It is important to note that if Daniel and his friends had refused to learn the language and literature of their new culture, they would have been ineffective. Instead, they successfully advised and served powerful and ungodly leaders in the land. For young leaders today, the challenge is to walk as Daniel did. He did not succumb to the influences and temptations of the culture around him, yet he did learn to navigate it and allow God to use him within it. We need the wisdom and favor that God gave Daniel to walk with truth, grace, and influence. It is time for a Daniel Generation to live and serve faithfully amid an ungodly culture, in humility glorifying the one true God!
The following is a guest post by Joy Cassellius, director of Tamán Prayer Ministry in Cd. Valles, Mexico
Moses and Joshua
I remember the beginning days of Tamán when my team and I went through the Bible trying to find the perfect verse to shape our ministry culture. After going through a number of verses, God brought me back to my favorite person in the Bible, Moses, and Exodus 33:11…
So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. (NKJV)
We see Moses live in a constant state of seeking the Lord´s counsel throughout his leadership; what an example to the next generation. In the beginning of the chapter, it says that while the rest of the people stood in the entrances of their tents, young Joshua ventured into the tabernacle with Moses. Even when his leader, Moses, departed the tabernacle to look to the matters of the Israelites, Joshua didn´t depart. I could repeat that over and over and still get goose bumps. Joshua did not depart from the tabernacle. He went on to become one of the bravest leaders in the history of Israel and it all started because a great leader modeled the importance of seeking the Lord. Moses took Joshua to the very presence of God and inspired him to pursue God with wholeheartedness.
Often, when the Lord speaks to us, we don´t fully understand the depth of His words until years later. While I nodded in blind agreement those early days as the Lord unpacked His dream for Tamán, I didn´t fully grasp it. Our name, Tamán, means place of meeting, as we believed that spiritual leaders would seek the Lord in the prayer room and that their example would propel a whole generation of Joshuas to the feet of Jesus. How exactly God would work that out? I didn´t know.
For the past three years, I thought about our theme verse and prayed for God to meet with His leaders at our prayer room, as well as bring in the Joshuas who would spend their youth discovering Him. As we welcomed people of all ages onto the Tamán team, my perspective on church culture started shifting. God kept challenging me with questions about the segregation of the generations within the church and the separating of the young from the old, and the married from the single.
The Kingdom´s Pride and Joy
As I wrestled through my philosophy on what church and Christian community should look like, God provided a key learning moment. My good friend, who sang on a Tamán worship team, suddenly lost her babysitter and started bringing her kids, ages 5 and 8, to the prayer room. Two hours of prayer proves difficult for most adults at first, so I worried about unsupervised kids disrupting our peaceful prayer time. After all, as the director, I had to think about the comfort of the others in the prayer room, right? In much of church culture today, children are removed from more ‘serious’ spiritual activities. We make sure to pay babysitters to watch them, leave them home with one of the parents or segregate them in some back room with Veggie Tales.
I decided to invite the kids to engage and actually go forward to pray in the microphone at times. Hesitantly, I decided to let the situation run its course and deal with issues as they arose. As I studied scripture, Jesus took me to His reaction to children in Luke 18:15-17. Jesus called children the ´kingdom´s pride and joy´ (The Message). Yes, those two incredible kids who sat next to me drawing and occasionally arguing with each other until I broke it up, are the ´pride and joy´ of the kingdom we are supposedly building for the Lord.
I watched as each week my friend showed up to the prayer room with her kids in tow. While she could have used the excuse of being a single, working mother, wanting to have her one free morning to get laundry done, she modeled the importance of seeking the Lord to her kids instead. Tamán only supplemented their nightly Bible time and her lessons on how to pray for the needs of the world. They brought their books, Barbie dolls, coloring books, action heroes, and Bibles to the prayer room. As they played and read during the two hours, you could sporadically hear their kid voices singing out to God.
No one in the prayer room could keep a dry eye when the eight-year-old got up to pray for the kids of our city or a suffering nation and started to sob. He passionately reminded God of the mighty deeds He had done for the Israelites or what He had spoken through the prophets of old and asked God to do it again in our day. The six-year-old made us all smile with her sincere and simple prayers to God that He would ´blesseds´ kids and families, or that Christians in the Middle East would not get their heads cut off anymore.
The weeks went by and turned into months; we have all benefited from them bouncing into the prayer room and giving us hugs. Sure, they have yet to discover their inside voices and their crayons often roll off the table onto the cement floor making thumping sounds, but we love the Joshuas in our midst. Society hardwires us, especially those without kids, to view children as inconveniences, but Jesus calls us to rise to their level of love.
While the younger generations have trickled into the prayer room, so have the older generations. One of my favorite intercessors is in her fifties and I have watched the Lord break the chains of low self-esteem off of her during the past few years. He replaced them with boldness and the devil now trembles because she is making up for lost time. She faithfully shows up early each week to her prayer time. When I asked her why she arrives so early, she told me she likes praying for the prayer time before it starts. Talk about getting inspired to love God so much that you show up early to pray for the prayer meeting. She also helped me back into the habit of fasting with her example of regular fasting. She might not be known by the world, but she is a Moses to those of us in the prayer room.
The younger generations in the Church desperately need the older generations to stay engaged and not retire from mentorship and modeling. Like Moses, who inspired his young assistant to actually know God, we need spiritual aunts, uncles, mothers and fathers and grandparents who commit to living out their faith shoulder-to-shoulder with the younger generations. The state of future generations requires today´s youth and young adults to put down their screens and start following their godly leaders into the presence of God. One day soon, the Joshuas will face the impenetrable wall of Jericho and have to tap into their history with God in the secret place to bravely lead the Church.
The process of integrating the different generations into our little prayer room team has shown me the beauty of God´s design for His Church. We have to start refusing to buy into the world´s lies that people in different stages and seasons of life can´t relate to us, or that they may make us uncomfortable. The Church can´t separate the strength of the youth from the wisdom of the elders and expect favorable results. Strength without wisdom produces hype and disillusionment, while wisdom without strength gets conceited and stagnates. Only through unified generations seeking the Lord together, do our faith communities truly resemble the Kingdom of God.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!